Eagle of the Canavese – Franco Balmamion and the Giro d’Italia
In the early 1960s Franco Balmamion won successive editions of the Giro d’Italia, an achievement no Italian cyclist has been able to emulate in almost half a century since. In the post-war era only Balmamion and the three great champions Coppi, Merckx and Indurain, have successfully defended the fabled maglia rosa, the pink jersey of the Giro winner. And yet virtually nothing is known of this rider whose Giro record surpassed all but the very best, and who, with a fraction of the support others enjoyed, might well have won not only a third Giro, but also the Tour de France.
In capturing the 1962 Giro Balmamion, the so-called ‘Silent Champion’, displayed extraordinary mental and physical courage, overcoming not only his rivals but also the mutiny and skullduggery of a famous, celebrated team-mate. His epic performance, at the age just twenty-two, was the equal of anything achieved by any of the true giants of the sport, but remains a story untold, ignored by the cycling world, obscured by the mists of time.
How then has cycling contrived to disregard the achievements of such a rider? That is the question Herbie Sykes asks in an unforgettable quest to recover the memory of ‘The Eagle of the Canavese’. In so doing he rediscovers the romantic, parochial community of Italian cycling, revealing for the first time the secrets of the race, and of the heroes and villains involved. Their stories, by turns heroic, astonishing and heartbreaking, are as immediate today as they were back then.
‘…packed with zest and anecdote, this account of Balmamion, the ‘forgotten man’ of the 1960s is a joy to read. ’
– David Harmon, British Eurosport
‘Italian cycle racing in the 60s brought to life with a refreshingly new perspective. This is a book about courage and deceit, joy and the sadness of careers that were lost. A tremendous read.’
– Phil Liggett, renowned international cycling commentator
‘This is much more than a simple biography of a great but long-forgotten rider. It paints a vivid and wry picture of 1960s Italy and cycling’s place in Italian culture. The level of detail is astonishing and Herbie Sykes’s love for racing and for the characters he encounters on his journey through the era is never in doubt. This is a great book, to be enjoyed by committed tifosi or anyone interested in the romance of cycle racing.’
– Luke Edwardes-Evans, cycling editor and journalist
‘I love Italy and I’ve had a lot of success there on the road. I rode the Giro last year. The Eagle of the Canavese is a real eye-opening look at my sport. The riders in the 60s obviously had a very tough time. This book is so revealing, once I started I couldn’t put it down.’
– Steve Cummings, World, Commonwealth gold and Olympic silver medalist